Presidential Precinct – 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship (YALI)

Presidential Precinct – 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship (YALI)


I’m from Tanzania. I’m from Mozambique. Harare
Zimbabwe. I come from Gabon. Democratic Republic of Congo. Ethiopia. Kenya. With over 50% of the 1.1 billion people on
that continent under the age of 25. That’s a strength. The 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows represent
an emerging group of leaders from civil society, public management, and business. This is a
highly select group. Over 30,000 applications for 500 slots, 25 of which attended a civic
leadership program at the Presidential Precinct. I am here not by mistake but for a purpose.
I applied for YALI to come and meet the world. Being part of the Presidential Precinct is
a strong backbone to all of our initiatives and also a lifetime support for our initiatives
that we are carrying back to Africa. During their six weeks at the Presidential
Precinct, Mandela Washington Fellows have the opportunity to participate in a civic
leadership program at our six partnering sites. The Presidential Precinct laid in front of
us a crowded canvas of opportunities. From the slave narratives of Ash Lawn-Highland,
to the ideas of independence at Monticello, on to the constitution making and democratic
governance at Montpelier, there couldn’t have been a finer blend of cultural orientation,
civic and entrepreneurial education, and leadership stimulation. So I believe that back home,
we should be able to harness all of this and then make sure that our action, our interventions
translate into values which we brought from the Presidential Precinct. This offers a slice of American history from
the very beginning. While many distinguished guests visit the
University of Virginia, there are few more important than the Mandela Fellows. Thomas
Jefferson was both founder of this university and the author of the Declaration of Independence
(a copy of which you just saw). What many don’t realize was Jefferson was only 33 years
old when he wrote that document. That fact alone reminds us that age is not a barrier
to significant accomplishment and change. When Fellows come here for the YALI program,
they get the opportunity to meet hundreds of government and business leaders and local
leaders here in the Charlottesville and Williamsburg communities. To meet young leaders from the countries where
we may already be working or where we would like to have activities is a wonderful opportunity. Investment in the program offers clear, tangible
ways to empower influential young leaders who are working to grow democracy and rule
of law around the world. I don’t think we can over-estimate the credibility
and brand awareness that attaches to the sponsors of our programs as a result of the bi-partisan,
open, non-judgmental nature of what goes on here at the Presidential Precinct. Fellows stay connected with business leaders
that they meet while they’re here at the Precinct, and those leaders are still in contact with
our YALI Fellows and helping invest in their work. Programs like this, the Presidential Precinct,
are essential. Any business leader given the opportunity to address people in an emerging
economy, in a place that is just positioned for huge growth, should not be bypassed. They are the future of Africa and definitely
one we should be focused on. It’s just an incredibly dynamic group of leaders
who are clearly thinking big thoughts in a good way about how to bring change in their
countries and how to lead. People always say youth are the leaders of
tomorrow, and I think youth are the leaders of today. We can’t talk about peace in the world without
young people. Even now, the dialogue of YALI 2015 continues.
Mandela Washington Fellows and other program participants can maintain connections around
the world through the Presidential Precinct Network, a secure platform for members to
advance their ideas, their community’s interests, and generate positive global change. The Precinct has created this Presidential
Precinct Network, an Internet platform, that will allow them to continue to communicate
forever. Now when I’m thinking about how to incorporate
young people I think of Pearl Pillay in South Africa. I think of the Youth Tank. I think
of Riek in South Sudan, and I think of amazing ideas in a time of conflict. It is our hope that these six weeks of curriculum
serve as a mere beginning to truly empower the next generation of influential leaders
across Africa.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

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